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So NC Schools Are Closed For The Year. What About Graduation?

Taylor Robinson

Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement that North Carolina's public schools will remain closed this school year because of the coronavirus leaves 101,000 seniors and their families with a painful question: Does this mean no in-person graduation?

Cooper and state education officials didn't address that Friday, and local school officials say the announcement is just the start of their work.

"Now that we know we’re not going back we’re exploring options, but we haven’t made any decisions yet," Union County Public Schools spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said Friday evening.

But let's just say it doesn't look good.

"I don’t think in-person graduation’s going to be an option," said Cheryl Turner, director of Charlotte's Sugar Creek Charter School.

Her school has only 60 in its graduating class -- tiny next to many Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools -- but she says they are looking at alternatives.

"We’ve thought of a couple of things: Doing it in pieces and turning it into a video, maybe trying to do it in cars," Turner said Friday afternoon. "We’ve talked about a lot of different things and we haven’t settled on anything yet."

CMS board Chair Elyse Dashew is the mother of a high school junior. She said Friday evening she knows seniors and their families are "devastated" at the prospect of losing graduation after already losing prom to the COVID-19 closings.

"There’s some people still pushing to do this in person, or do this in person in a larger space," Dashew said.

But she says she can't imagine any safe way to convene graduating classes as large as 800 or 900, along with family and friends, and keep them from exchanging hugs and high-fives.

"I’ve seen Bojangles' Coliseum very close to full" for CMS graduations, she said.

Superintendent Earnest Winston has convened a task force to look at alternatives. Seniors, parents, teachers, principals and central office staff will look at alternative to traditional graduation ceremonies and bring the school board recommendations for "a meaningful ceremony that's still safe" on May 4, Dashew  said.

To submit ideas, email Damon1.willis@cms.k12.nc.us, Dashew said.

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